Read this book: Life Together

The following is a guest post by Tyler Recker.

[This is a re-post from 5/11.  It is appropriate in light of my sermon from Sunday and my recommending this book yesterday.]

I do not read books twice. Futher, there are so many good books, that I’m not big on “everyone needs to read this!”. However, I must tell you that Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s 122 page Life Together is one that I will read again, and one that I think everyone would do well to read.

The book is on the subject of living in community with other believers. I think Bonhoeffer hits on just about every issue that could arise in our BASE group setting. If you are into highlighting books, as I am, then you will find yourself highlighting sentence after sentence on just about every page. Simply put, Bonhoeffer grasps the need for Christian community, he understands the issues that arise with it, and then he confronts the pride that is at the heart of those issues in a pointed way.
Rather than attempt to lay out a full book review. Let me just leave you with some more quotations from the last few chapters of the book that I read yesterday:

On lending a hand to our brothers/sister in simple tasks:

“The second service that one should perform for another in a Christian community is that of active helpfulness. This means, initially, simple assistance in trifling, external matters. There is a multitude of these things wherever people live together. Nobody is too good for the meanest service. One who worries about the loss of time that such petty, outward acts of helpfulness entail is usually taking the importance of his own career too solemnly. p. 99

On the when others act according to their personality (“freedom”):

“The freedom of the other person includes all that we mean by a person’s nature, individuality, endowment. It also includes his weaknesses and oddities, whish are such a trial to our patience, everything that produces frictions, conflicts, and collisions among us. To bear the burden of the other person means involvement with the created reality of the other, to accept and affirm it, and, in bearing with it, to break through to the point where we take joy in it.” p. 101

On why we cannot judge the sins of our brother:

“We may suffer the sins of our brother; we do not need to judge. This is a mercy for the Christian; for when does sin ever occur in the community that he must not examine and blame himself for his own unfaithfulness in prayer and intercession, his lack of brotherly service, of fraternal reproof and encouragement, indeed, for his own personal sin and spiritual laxity, by which he has done injury to himself, the fellowship, and the brethren?

On correcting one another in love:

“The more we learn to allow others to speak the Word to us, to accept humbly and gratefully even severe reproaches and admonitions, the more free and objective will we be in speaking ourselves. The person whose touchiness and vanity make him spurn a brother’s earnest censure cannot speak the truth in humility to others; he is afraid of being rebuffed and of feeling that he has been aggrieved. The touchy person will always become a flatterer and very soon he will come to despise and slander his brother. But the humble will stick both to truth and to love. p. 106

“He has put His Word in our mouth. He wants it to be spoken through us. If we hinder His Word, the blood of the sinning brother will be upon us.” p. 108

On the need for confession to God and to men:

“The final break-through to fellowship does not occuer, because, though they have fellowship with one another as believers and as devout people, they do not have fellowship as the undevout, as sinners. The pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner. So everybody must conceal his sin from himself and from the fellowship. We dare not be sinners. Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is discovered among the righteous. So we remain alone with our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy. The fact is we are sinners!” p. 110

“You can hide nothing from God. The mask you wear before men will do you no good before Him. He wants to see you as you are, He wants to be gracious to you. You do not have to go on lying to yourself and your brothers, as if you were without sin; you can dare to be a sinner.” p. 111

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One thought on “Read this book: Life Together

  1. I read this book years ago. I can see that I need to pick it up again. I see myself in many of the quotes you listed here.

    God always uses Bonhoeffer to remind me of what a mess I am and how much I need my brothers and sisters in Christ.

    I suffer from what many other suburbanites suffer from, namely that deception that I “have it all together” or at the very least, the desire to appear as if I do.

    Thanks for the reminder of how much we desperately need Jesus and one another.

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